The Fiji Times » Natural Disaster Response Forum

Red Cross participants from 12 Pacific island countries took part in a forum last week to build capacity to respond to natural disasters and crises affecting communities in the region.

The five-day forum for Communications and Family Links staff of Pacific Islands Red Cross National Societies (PINS) provided an opportunity to share skills and expand knowledge through facilitated learning.

Luisa Turaga of the Fiji Red Cross said people in the Pacific face similar challenges.

“Being able to learn from each other helps us bring that knowledge home,” she said.

“It’s so important, because the communications work carries that authority into the space of disaster response – people look up to us and expect messages that will help them.”

The Nadi forum also provided a platform for representatives of national societies to exchange rich experiences.

It was organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with the help of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Participants received training from various experts in the fields of disaster management, restoring family links and international humanitarian law, areas in which they collaborate with the ICRC. Representatives of the Australian and New Zealand Red Cross were also present.

ICRC regional cooperation coordinator Leslie Leach said the opportunity encouraged the development of critical skills among the diverse National Societies of the Pacific Islands.

“In times of emergency, the ability of these national societies to connect families separated by events and to communicate with communities is crucial – it can save lives,” she said.

“The sharing of experiences and knowledge that Red Cross staff members have gained from each other during these sessions is invaluable.

Participants also had the opportunity to learn from three media professionals during a panel organized by the forum with journalists from The Fiji Times, The Fiji Sun and Fijian Broadcasting Corporation.

Melvin B. Baillie